Wedding Photography Timeline | How much time do you need for great photos?

by | June 25, 2019

Photography is one of the most important aspects of your wedding day.  But great photos take time!  When your wedding is running behind, guess what gets shortchanged in the timeline?  Not the ceremony which has a hard start time or the reception but the photography.   A well thought out photography timeline is essential to your wedding running smoothly and sets your photographer up for success. Proper timeline planning will ensure that you are able to make the most of your wedding day for photos as well as enjoy a stress-free day!

 

Below is the amount of time I recommend for wedding day events and the typical photos I take, sprinkled in with some helpful tips.  Keep in mind that each wedding is unique, therefore the time will vary based on the logistics of your wedding. For example, if there is a lot of traveling from the getting ready location to the ceremony site and reception.  Or if you have a larger than average bridal party, it increases the potential for hair and make-up to run longer than expected.  Regardless, the majority of weddings run late and everything takes longer than you think. Therefore it’s always a good idea to cushion your timeline.  Too much time is never a problem!

 

I’ve found that eight to nine hours is the ideal amount of time for a wedding.  The timelines below are based on an eight-hour timeframe and whether or not there’s a first look.

 

Timeline with a First Look

One of the benefits of doing a first look is that wedding party photos can be taken before the ceremony. This will save some time afterward so that you’ll have more time for couple photos. It also allows for more flexibility in the timeline and as an added bonus, you both get to experience more of the wedding day together.  Of course, a first look is not for everyone.  I would never try to push it on a couple who has their heart set on seeing each other for the first time as you walk down the aisle.  After all! It’s your day. You should have it your way.

 

marine groom seeing bride for the first time ocean view point loma wedding

 

Details-

 

Bride – dress hanging, bouquet, shoes, jewelry, etc.

Groom – tie, cufflinks, jacket, shoes, watch, etc. (Second photographer will photograph the guys)

Helpful info – Photographing the details is an important part of your wedding story and helps me get warmed-up for the day’s events. I’ll start with this while you and your bridesmaids are putting on the finishing touches of your hair and make-up.  The groom and groomsmen can use this time for showering and getting dressed up to their pants, shirt, and tie.    

Recommended Time: 30 minutes

 

Getting Ready-

 

Bride – fun candid images of everyone getting ready, finishing stages of bride’s hair/make-up, robe shots (requires everyone ready with hair/make-up), bride putting on the dress, opening gift/readings letter, solo portraits

Groom – fun candid images of everyone getting ready (finishing stages such as tie, jacket, cufflinks, etc.), putting on boutonnieres, groom opening gift/reading letter, groom solo portraits, fun group photos around the property (time permitting)

Helpful info

  • Since these can be some of the most emotional moments of the day, you’ll want to allow for as much time as possible to take it all in and not feel rushed.  That goes for the guys too!  Even though they don’t take as long to get dressed, you’ll want to give them enough bonding time with groomsmen and parents.  
  • Schedule it in the timeline so that bridesmaids and mother of the bride are dressed by the time the bride is ready to get into her dress.  This makes for better photos.
  • Allow more time than you think you need to get ready.  Hair & make-up is one of the top reasons weddings fall behind.  Consider telling your HMUA that you need to be ready 30 minutes earlier than the actual time.  Or add in a buffer of 5-10 minutes per person.  
  • If your dress has extensive buttons or lacing it will take longer to put on.  Be sure to take this into consideration when planning your timeline.

Recommended Time: 1 hour

 

First Look

 

Bride and Groom see each other for the first time before the ceremony.

Helpful info – While the first look itself will be around 15 minutes, the rest of the time will be used for couple photos around the venue.  We’ll take additional photos after the ceremony when light is ideal.

Recommended Time: 45 mins

 

Bridal Party  –

 

Photos of the full bridal party with bride and groom, bride with bridesmaids, groom with groomsmen.

Helpful Info

  • During this time we’ll capture a variety of formal and fun photos, as well as portraits of you with each of your bridesmaids or groomsmen.
  • Guys should have boutonnieres on, girls should have bouquets.

Recommended Time : 45 mins

 

Ceremony Details/Prep Time –

 

Photos of the ceremony site and details before guests arrive.  This also gives me and my second photographer an opportunity to come up with a game plan on how best to photograph the ceremony and coordinate with videographers so we’re not in each other’s way.

Recommended Time  – 15 minutes

 

Ceremony –

 

Bride walking down the aisle, groom’s expression, parents, and guests reactions.

Recommended Time: 30 mins but may require up to 1 hour for a religious ceremony

 

Family Formals –

 

Group photos with family.

Helpful Info – I usually do formals after the ceremony but if you’re doing a first look, there is also the option to do them before. Here are the pros and cons.

  • Pros: Everyone is focused on getting them done and not distracted by cocktail hour.  There’s more time for couple portraits before sunset and you’ll be more relaxed.
  • Cons: Not everyone is available to make it for photos before the ceremony.  The light may be harsh if there’s no shade for large groups. 

The trick to getting through family formals quickly and efficiently is to let your family members know exactly when and where to be available, have a well planned shot list and designate someone on the bride and groom’s side to help coordinate.

Recommended Time: 30 minutes

 

Bride and Groom/Couple Sunset Photos –

 

Photos taken around the venue right before sunset.

Helpful Info – This is the best time of day for light.  Ideally, we’ll want to start couple photos about 30 mins (or an hour) before sunset.  If the ceremony ends earlier in the day, we can always carve some time out during the downtime at the reception which would be during dinner or before speeches.

Recommended Time: 30 mins

 

Cocktail hour and Details

 

This is a great time to get photos of your guests.  The second photographer will spend a few minutes taking candid and groups photos, reception details, and room shots before guests enter.

Recommended Time: 15 – 20 mins for details and 40-45 mins on guests photos

 

Reception

 

Party time!!  Includes grand entrance, first dance, parent dances, toasts, cake cutting, bouquet/garter toss, open dance, exit

Helpful Info

  • It’s better to have more time on the front end of your wedding then the back end.  Therefore, it is only necessary to have photography coverage for 30 minutes to an hour during open dance.  This is usually plenty of time to capture the action, like grandma getting down on the dance floor.    
  • The best time for photographers to eat is when you’re eating.  If we wait until after all the guests are served, you’ll be done eating and ready to get started and we run the risk of missing the speeches or first dances.  Please understand that we are on our feet all day and don’t have time to eat or take a break. It’s hard being creative when your blood sugar is dropping.  The last thing you want is your photographer passing out on the dance floor. This is our only chance to recharge so we can continue to feel pumped about making memorable photos for you. Let your coordinator know that we need to eat at the same time as you.

Recommended Time: 3 hours

  • Guest seated – 15 minutes
  • Grand entrance – 5 to 10 minutes
  • First dance – 5 minutes
  • Welcome speech(es) – 5 to 10 minutes per speech
  • Dinner – 1 hour
  • Toasts – 30 minutes
  • Family dances – 5 minutes per dance
  • Bouquet toss- 10 minutes
  • Garter toss – 10 minutes
  • Cake cutting and dessert – 30 minutes
  • Open dance – 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Grand exit – 15 minutes

Grand Exit – 

If you don’t have enough photographer coverage for a grand exit or you’re not sure if you want one, plan an epic ceremony exit instead.  Think confetti, balloons, beach balls, bubbles, streamers, etc.  Whatever your heart desires!

 

Travel Time –

 

Another top reason for weddings falling behind!  Remember to account for travel in the timeline.  Give plenty of time for traffic delays.  In some instances, if your wedding requires a lot of travel time, you may want to extend the hours of your photographer in order to have proper photo coverage for all of the events.

 

 

Timeline without a First Look

One of the primary differences between a timeline with a first look and without a first look is that there is less time for family formals, full bridal party photos and couples portraits.

groom sees bride for the first time at coronado beach wedding

 

 

 

Details-

 

Bride – dress hanging, bouquet, shoes, jewelry, etc.

Groom – tie, cufflinks, jacket, shoes, watch, etc. (Second photographer will photograph the guys)

Helpful info – Photographing the details is an important part of your wedding story and helps me get warmed-up for the day’s events. I’ll start with this while you and your bridesmaids are putting on the finishing touches of your hair and make-up.  Groom and groomsmen can use this time for showering and getting dressed up to their pants, shirt, and tie.    

Recommended Time: 30 minutes

 

Getting Ready-

 

Bride – fun candid images of everyone getting ready, finishing stages of bride’s hair/make-up, robe shots (requires everyone ready with hair/make-up), bride putting on the dress, opening gift/readings letter, solo portraits

Groom – fun candid images of everyone getting ready (finishing stages such as tie, jacket, cufflinks, etc.), putting on boutonnieres, groom opening gift/reading letter, groom solo portraits, fun group photos around the property (time permitting)

Helpful info

  • Since these can be some of the most emotional moments of the day, you’ll want to allow for as much time as possible to take it all in and not feel rushed.  That goes for the guys too!  Even though they don’t take as long to get dressed, you’ll want to give them enough bonding time with groomsmen and parents.  
  • Schedule it in the timeline so that bridesmaids and mother of the bride are dressed by the time the bride is ready to get into her dress.  This makes for better photos.
  • Allow more time than you think you need to get ready.  Hair & make-up is one of the top reasons weddings fall behind.  Consider telling your HMUA that you need to be ready 30 minutes earlier than the actual time.
  • If your dress has extensive buttons or lacing it will take longer to put on.  Be sure to take this into consideration when planning your timeline.

Recommended Time: 1 hour

 

Bride and Bridesmaids –

 

Formal and fun group photos and bride with each bridesmaid.

Recommended Time: 30 minutes

 

Groom and Groomsmen Photos-

 

Formal and fun group photos and groom with each groomsman.  (Taken by the second photographer while I’m with the girls)

Recommended Time: 30 minutes

 

Ceremony Details/Prep Time –

 

Photos of the ceremony site and details before guests arrive.  This also gives me and my second photographer an opportunity to come up with a game plan on how best to photograph the ceremony and coordinate with videographers so we’re not in each other’s way.

Recommended Time: 15 minutes

 

Ceremony –

 

Bride walking down the aisle, groom’s expression, parents, and guests reactions

Recommended Time: 30 mins but may require up to 1 hour for a religious ceremony

 

Family Formals –

 

Family photos with bride and groom.

Helpful Info

  • We need to limit the family formals so there’s enough time for full bridal party photos and enough daylight for couple photos.  I recommend limiting photos to immediate family.  We can always take extended family photos at the reception or extend cocktail hour by 15 minutes. 
  • The trick to getting through family formals quickly and efficiently is to let your family members know exactly when and where to be available, have a well planned shot list and designate someone on the bride and groom’s side to help coordinate.

Recommended Time: 20 minutes

 

Bridal Party Photos –

 

Photos of the full bridal party with bride and groom

Recommended Time: 10 mins

 

Bride and Groom Sunset Photos –

 

Photos taken around the venue right before sunset.

Helpful Info – This is the best time of day for light.  Ideally, we’ll want to start couple photos about 30 mins (or an hour) before sunset.  If the ceremony ends earlier in the day, we can always carve some time out during the downtime at the reception which would be during dinner or before speeches.

Recommended Time: 30 mins

 

Cocktail hour and Details

 

This is a great time to get photos of your guests.  The second photographer will spend a few minutes taking candid and groups photos, reception details, and room shots before guests enter.

Helpful Info – If you’d like some more time for bride and groom photos, consider extending cocktail hour by an extra 15 mins.

Recommended Time: 15-20 mins for details and 40-45 mins on guests photos

 

Reception

 

Party time!!  Includes grand entrance, first dance, parent dances, toasts, cake cutting, bouquet/garter toss, open dance, exit

Helpful Info

  • It’s better to have more time on the front end of your wedding then the back end.  Therefore, it is only necessary to have photography coverage for 30 minutes to an hour during open dance.  This is usually plenty of time to capture the action, like grandma getting down on the dance floor.    
  • The best time for photographers to eat is when you’re eating.  If we wait until after all the guests are served, you’ll be done eating and ready to get started and we run the risk of missing the speeches or first dances.  Please understand that we are on our feet all day and don’t have time to eat or take a break. It’s hard being creative when your blood sugar is dropping.  The last thing you want is your photographer passing out on the dance floor. This is our only chance to recharge so we can continue to feel pumped about making memorable photos for you. Let your coordinator know that we need to eat at the same time as you.

Recommended Time: 3 hours

  • Guest seated – 15 minutes
  • Grand entrance – 5 to 10 minutes
  • First dance – 5 minutes
  • Welcome speech(es) – 5 to 10 minutes per speech
  • Dinner – 1 hour
  • Toasts – 30 minutes
  • Family dances – 5 minutes per dance
  • Bouquet toss- 10 minutes
  • Garter toss – 10 minutes
  • Cake cutting and dessert – 30 minutes
  • Open dance – 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Grand exit – 15 minutes

Grand Exit – 

If you don’t have enough photographer coverage for a grand exit or you’re not sure if you want one, plan an epic ceremony exit instead.  Think confetti, balloons, beach balls, bubbles, streamers, etc.  Whatever your heart desires!

 

Travel Time –

Another top reason for weddings falling behind!  Remember to account for travel in the timeline.  Give plenty of time for traffic delays.  In some instances, if your wedding requires a lot of travel time, you may want to extend the hours of your photographer in order to have proper photo coverage for all of the events.

 

I work with every one of my couples to make sure we come up with the perfect timeline for your day.  If you’re getting married in San Diego and would like some help planning your wedding timeline, I’d love to chat with you.

Pin this post for reference later:
a pinterest image of a bride and groom kissing for a wedding photography timeline blog

 

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